Sometimes so little is going through my head that if Ralph were to say something, I’d actually have room to listen to him. Those few times that’s happened also seems to be my week to write an article which then leaves me scrambling. Other times, I start the article only to be sideswiped by some event making me set it aside and start over. Such as todays.
I am an old fogey when it comes to the decriminalization of marijuana. I am vehemently opposed to it. I grew up in Europe in the 60s when the dope of the day was very prevalent and, so I’m told, is nothing compared to the strength of today. While I don’t for a minute think it is addictive leading to stronger things, I do think it is psychologically addictive. I believe chronic users become paranoid, forgetful and display a sense of lethargy. I have nothing to back this up other than my own perception of users I have know over the years. We are told our government is decriminalizing marijuana because they want to curb the illegal drug trade but I don’t believe that reasoning for a minute. Knowing older users are already comfortable with it, I feel its sole purpose is to buy votes from the younger generation (who can hardly wait for 1 July to light up their own fireworks) and thus encourage them to vote for our cool Prime Minister. Too, the government wants to reap the revenue from the sale of, what they see as, a social happening which is not going to go away. To me the only way to truly curb the drug trade is to legalize every drug going. If our government seriously wants to put a dent in the wallets of drug lords, then legalize cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, the whole nine yards. I would agree to that. Then the government could set up programs to help addicts and I would also be in agreement with that.
The Jan. 26 topic of Fifth Estate dealt with this impending decriminalization, and the processes to be used to determine if someone is impaired. The federal government has set aside $80 million dollars to train 700-800 workers connected with drug enforcement in assisting them in recognizing those thought to be under the influence. Unfortunately the main means of ascertaining usage is a visual, that is, to watch the suspect and use a judgement call. A judgement call! Eighty million dollars to teach the police what to look for knowing the end result will be whether or not they ‘looked’ impaired. Every specialist interviewed involved with such a process said the same thing. Even using technical equipment, there is no legitimate way (to a point where it would stand up in court when challenged), to determine this. So when all is said and done, the main utensil used to determine drug activity will be the eyes of the arresting officer. Another issue which will come up for certain is racial profiling. All an officer has to do is think someone has been using and that permits the officer to challenge anyone. In the United States where DREs (Drug Recognition Experts) spoke with Fifth Estate, they all indicated Canada should ensure all its ducks are in order before implementation as everything will be challenged and once a challenge is lost it will be very difficult to get past it. These DREs use a twelve step process on each person brought in for suspected use, but admit even it is not very effective. So does Canada have those ducks in order? Absolutely not! Has the horse been put before the cart? It sure has. Should they have done their duck duty prior to determining a decriminalization date? You bet your sweet bippy!
I wonder how union Police Associations across Canada will react to what will be a colossal increase in workload and responsibility for its members. How does this fit with their collective bargaining process? And what compensation will the government pay in the future for anyone deemed to have been wrongfully arrested in the past for marijuana use. We compensate everyone nowadays for perceived past wrongs. It will just be a matter of time before this is challenged.
People say this is no different than the legalization of liquor almost a hundred years ago. But I disagree. We are living in different times now. I don’t recall stories of young people anxiously awaiting the liquor laws to change so they could drink. We can’t even begin to compare cars on the road back then to cars of the road now. We’re still having difficulty getting people not to drink and drive or not to text and drive. Now we can add dope and drive. I’m left with the impression I may be in the minority but I pride myself on never, in my adult life, being one of those who jumps off a cliff because everyone else is. Maybe I’ll send Ralph in my place. He can talk to the others on the way down.
Sheila Graham is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Board.